Nintendo mentioned that it would consider the idea of free to play games and cloud storage earlier in the spring and later announced that it would have a free to play title that would launch before the end of next March. The company only mentioned that it wouldn’t be the Mario or Pokemon franchises. Nintendo’s creative genius Shigeru Miyamoto told IGN that the first title would be in the Steel Diver franchise.
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Steel Diver is a submarine simulator which includes combat. The original game in this series was good and somewhat different—especially for a Nintendo console. After playing it, you did get the feeling that this would be a pretty regular series for Nintendo. At any rate, this will feature four-person multiplayer—online presumably. This would be a great step as Nintendo has never been particularly strong with the multiplayer game besides Monster Hunter Tri.
CEO Satoru Iwata said that the business approach to turn a profit with these F2P games would be price friendly—“balanced and reasonable” as he puts it. He also said that “free-to-play games, if unbalanced, could result in some consumers playing extremely large amounts of money, and we can certainly not expect to build a good relationship with our consumers in this fashion.” Of course that doesn’t stop EA from running with that approach and it has actually worked for them.
Nothing was said of which consoles it would appear on. It could very well be both, but it was hinted that we could see something “relatively soon” by Miyamoto.
Free to play has always seen a degree of groans and eye rolling—just general dismissiveness. That increases when F2P seeps into the area of MMORPGs where players who generally aren’t going anywhere have paid actual subscriptions to get where they are and what they have for years. There’s something of a divide between players who support the game fully and those who play for free and might support the game partially. In the case of Nintendo, they’re starting off fresh by having a game based off of it from the start.
As stated before, EA does this with their Real Racing franchise and its something that numerous browser games work with. VIP in browser games such as Popmundo has more of an incentive appeal to it. The game with and without purchasing VIP aren’t all that different. You’re not “paying to win” as is the case with most F2P approaches and another reason why it’s treated with disdain.
I’m mixed on the notion of F2P. In some cases, it works perfectly if the game isn’t drastically different between subscribers and free players. Sure the ones who pay should have some goodies, but it shouldn’t create a glass ceiling where free players just can’t advance in the game. That results in a loss of potential subscribers. That’s where F2P fails. It will definitely be interesting to see what Nintendo aims to do with Steel Diver. There’s some potential for good things that could lead to more free to play franchises on the Wii U and 3DS. Better yet it could move Nintendo to do more in regards to online play which is something that dominated the last generation and the company still hasn’t fully embraced as of yet.